“Can I Say the N-Word?”

The first time I remember being referred to as a “n**ger” is permanently etched in my mind.  It happened in 1968.  I was eleven years old and in the 7th grade.  There were only a few black students (all female, but that is another story for another day) attending the “white school.”  My classmates and I were standing in the lunchroom line. A white girl (let’s call her Missy Anne) took note of the fact that she and a white boy were standing in between me and the only other black girl in our class.  She then said to the white boy who was standing beside her:  “Look at us, standing ‘tween two n**gers.”

It could very well be that I had been referred to as a “n**ger” before that time.  However, I do not remember the specifics of those earlier incidents.  For the most part, the white people with whom I interacted subscribed to the “benevolent racism” of Miss Daisy and referred to black people as “colored” (at least when we could hear them).

I remember how the word stung.  There I was in my cute little school dress, with my matching socks and my saddle oxfords.  I had done nothing (apart from existing) to deserve the hatred and disdain and contempt dripping from her tongue.

I have been referred to as a “n**ger” by white people a number of other times since that incident.  Each time, the word stung.  Each time, I had done nothing to deserve the contempt, disdain, and hatred with which the word was used.  Each time, I knew that the person using the word mean to stab, to wound, and to hurt me.  Each time, (along with other reactions that merit their own story) I pray it will be the last time. 

So, for me, there is no room for argument on this issue.   As explained in this Twitter thread, unless you are black, then you do not ever, under any circumstances, get to use the N-word.  You do not get to use it as noun, adjective, or verb.  You do not get to use it as part of a phrase or a saying.  You do not get to use it in a song.  There is no justification, explanation, or rationalization that would allow you to do so. 

P.S.  In addition, do not lecture black people about using the N-word.  Do not point to any statements by any black person (be it Dr. Maya Angelou or Richard Pryor) urging black people to stop using the word as support for your conclusion (as a person who is not black) that black people should not use the N-word.


One response to ““Can I Say the N-Word?”

  1. I am one of the believe that if the “N” word is offensive to you, it should be so no matter who says it, specially if the person saying it is African-American.


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